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When is a private golf community the right choice, and when is a home in a non-golf community an even better one? Read on…
Pine Lakes International Club Myrtle Beach, SC
Playing the Field: Different Types of Golf Club Memberships Add Variety, Subtract Costs
As the golf course industry consolidates, more and more golf companies are buying up golf courses and linking them together into affiliated memberships. Few golf rich areas are more competitive than is Myrtle Beach, SC, where year-round and part-time residents have a dizzying number of such memberships available to them. Here are some of the best:
Caledonia & True Blue Golf Club
What: Full access with advanced tee times at two of the best golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area. (In my opinion, Caledonia is the best of 100 courses in terms of layout and conditions.)
Where: Pawleys Island, south of Myrtle Beach. The clubs are virtually across the street from each other.
Costs: $1,900 annual dues, no initiation fee, payment of $30 to play (essentially a cart fee).
Prime Time Signature Card
What: One annual fee for access to all 22 of Founders International layouts, including: Pawleys Plantation, Founders Club, Tradition, River Club and Pine Lakes International. Membership includes significant discounts on golf, merchandise and food, and special tournaments and events.
Where: Along the Highway 17 corridor in South Carolina from the NC line to Pawleys Island.
Costs: $249; annual renewals at $149. Green fees start at $33 per round; earn points for free rounds after as few as two rounds. Upgrade to Prime Time Honors membership for even more perks.
The Legends All-Inclusive Card Program (local tri-county residents only)
What: Special low-cost membership at the five Legends Group of courses, including the Legends Heathland, Moorland and Parkland courses, Heritage Golf Club and Oyster Harbour. Membership includes discounted green fees, breakfast, lunch and two beers per round.
Where: Calabash, NC (Oyster Harbour), Myrtle Beach (The Legends Resort) and Pawleys Island (Heritage Club).
Costs: $20 per year; rounds are $30 weekdays, $35 weekends.
What: Multiple golf club membership that includes 22 golf courses from one end of the Grand Strand to the other, more than 60 miles. Features include a free round after four purchased at discount prices.
Where: Crow Creek, Thistle Golf Club, Wachesaw East and 19 other courses.
Cost: $149 for calendar year membership; includes, for limited time, $100 gift card good for golf, food, beverages and merchandise at member clubs.
If you are considering a search for a permanent or vacation home in a golf-oriented area, please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
To Live La Vida Golf, You May Not Need A Golf Community
For a guy who has visited and reviewed hundreds of golf communities and their golf courses, it may seem strange that I don’t believe a golf community is the best option for every golfer or golfing couple. Yes, the vast majority of clients I have worked with purchased homes inside the gates of planned developments that include golf courses. And today, they are enjoying all the amenities that come along with a membership in the golf club, in addition to the golf -– pool access, fitness centers, walking trails, tennis, perhaps a marina and/or nearby beach club.
But such easy-to-access activities come at a price that includes not only initiation fees and dues, but also typically a higher level of homeowner association fees to keep landscaping commensurate with the expectations of those paying to belong to a golf club. And “private” golf communities –- those with member-only play and perhaps a guarded gatehouse –- customarily charge higher fees.
Some couples want the golf but, in many cases, not much else (a fitness center, perhaps, and walking trails). And in an area where great golf is accessible to the public, such as the area south of Myrtle Beach, SC, you can play a lot of golf with the money you save by not joining a private or even semi-private club, especially if the home you bought is used for vacations and not as a year-round residence.
A Costly Indulgence
I know. I made the classic mistake nearly 20 years ago when my wife and I purchased a vacation condo in Pawleys Plantation, just a six-minute drive to the beautiful beaches on Pawleys Island, SC. The developer who built our brand new condo in 2000 dangled half of the $15,000 club initiation fee as incentive to purchase, and I jumped at the “gift” of $7,500 to join a club with a terrific Jack Nicklaus golf course in a beautiful marshland setting.
If I had stopped to consider how often we might stay at the condo, given the considerations of a demanding full-time job at the time, two children in high school followed by college in Virginia and Vermont, and other reasons to be in Connecticut for all but a couple of months a year, simple math would have dissuaded me from such a “deal.” (I was an English major in college and sometimes numbers don’t speak to me as they should.) Forget the $7,500 net initiation fee: Divide the number of times I played each year into the annual cost of club dues; I could have played as much golf at Pebble Beach or the Ocean Course at Kiawah (more than $400 each, for those who may not be aware) as I did on my own golf course. Don’t get me wrong; the golf at Pawleys Plantation is wonderful, but not at those prices.
Pay for Play a Better Way
At the time in 2000, consolidation in the golf course industry had not really started, and if I had opted to pay as I played, rather than the “free” green fees that came with the Pawleys Plantation membership, I would have paid an average of $100 per round, golf cart included. That certainly did not seem like such a bargain at the time, but in retrospect, it was. (Note: Pawleys Plantation recently reduced its initiation fee to $2,500 for a full-golf membership. Dues are $262.50 per month.)
In any event, there is no use crying over such mistakes; you just try to learn from them. And one thing I have learned from some of my clients, who clearly have thought deeply about the financial aspects of a vacation or permanent home, is that there is more than one way to live a rewarding golfing lifestyle. Clients Mario and Linda, who live on Long Island, New York have found the right formula.
“We chose the Myrtle Beach area because I enjoy golf and my wife enjoys the beach,” says Mario,” and the Myrtle area excels in both.”
The only hard and fast requirement the couple had was to be within a 10-minute drive of a Catholic church they felt comfortable joining.
“We went church shopping first,” Mario says. “We found the idyllic Catholic church in the Pawleys Island area of South Myrtle Beach. We drew a circle around the church…within a ten-minute drive.”
Hoping that would make their search simple, the couple was surprised at just how many choices there were in that 10-minute circle around the church. Mario and Linda were open to a home inside or outside the gates of a golf community; therefore, their biggest challenge became whether to settle on the low-maintenance but higher homeowner fees option of a condo, or the more spacious and less fee-burdened single-family home. (It may seem counterintuitive but maintenance costs on a condo, through association fees, are generally higher than for a single dwelling, although the separate home typically costs a bit more to purchase.)
Golf Community or Not
As for the choice between a golf community and a neighborhood without a golf course, the couple approached that aspect of the search with an open mind.
“We wanted to be in a community,” according to Mario. “We liked the idea of a group of people who would be our neighbors and believed any type of community would help foster new friendships.”
In the end, cost was a factor in the decision.
“Resort communities demanded too much of a price premium,” says Mario, “and so we eliminated them from consideration.”
It came down to whether they would live in a golf community or not. They looked at homes in both, and the home they liked best was in Allston Plantation which, like Pawleys Plantation, has its entrance just off US Highway 17 and is convenient to shopping, restaurants, the couple’s new church and, of course, terrific golf options.
“To be honest, we could have gone either way here,” says Mario, “but as a second home, I think the cost savings of the non-golf community made more sense.”
The couple’s house hunting days may not be over, however.
“Eventually, we plan to retire here (Pawleys Island),” Mario adds, “and when that happens, we may reconsider this decision.”
For some of the many golfing options Mario has in Pawleys Island, see the adjacent sidebar.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC